29 April 2014 | 22 Comments
Tribes–a term coined by Seth Godin to refer to the people who follow you on social media–are a funny thing, especially on Kickstarter. One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear about Kickstarter is that you need to have an established tribe before you launch your campaign, or else the project might be dead on arrival.
But tribes can be also be misleading. Just because you have an avid fanbase doesn’t mean that they’re interested in your Kickstarter project.
This first came to light a few weeks ago when I listened to a fascinating episode of Funding the Dream with guests Michael and Stephen Stagliano. The brothers were seeking support for a game called Mice & Dice, and even though the project was failing, their candor on the podcast is refreshing to hear.
The most interesting thing to me is that Michael Stagliano is somewhat famous. I had never heard of him, but he talks about how he was on the TV show The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad seasons 2 and 3. He has over 98,000 Twitter followers and nearly 9,400 fans on Facebook.
And yet their Kickstarter campaign–which was well researched, attractively displayed, and priced fairly–only garnered 176 backers.
Let me give you one other example, and then I’ll make my point.
The other example is a campaign that is currently on Kickstarter and has actually reached its funding goal. It’s a survival board game called Doom and Bloom’s SURVIVAL. Just like Mice and Dice, it’s a well constructed campaign, but in the month it’s been on Kickstarter, it has raised $22,890 from 328 backers.
Out of context, those numbers are nothing to scoff at. But let’s compare them to Doom and Bloom’s tribe. The company is run by Joe and Amy Alton, authors of a book called The Survival Medicine Handbook and the hosts of a podcast/YouTube channel about surviving in the wilderness.
Joe and Amy have done a great job of building up their tribe. Their Facebook page has 6,273 fans, and their YouTube channel has over 8,000 subscribers. They shared with me that they’ve sold about 40,000 copies of their book, and their podcast has been downloaded over 136,000 times in the last 4 months.
By all accounts, they have an extremely loyal, attentive following, one that any Kickstarter creator would be envious of. But those numbers are in stark contrast to their 328 backers.
What’s going on here?
I talked to Joe and Amy about their numbers, and they mentioned that in preparation and promotion for the campaign, they attended 3 preparedness and survival expos to show off their game to the audience there, and they’ve marketed the game on several related survival podcasts.
I’ve written about the idea of building online relationships not just with your direct audience, but also with indirect audiences. For example, for my game Viticulture, my direct audience was gamers, and my indirect audience was wine lovers.
However, my post-campaign data revealed that only 4% of all backers were purely wine lovers, compared to 76% gamers. Did spending my time on an audience that wasn’t going to make much of an impact on the campaign?
I wondered the same question about the Doom and Bloom campaign, so I asked Amy if she would consider polling her audience to ask what their connection was to the campaign. Here are the results of the poll:
The results aren’t as stark as those for Viticulture, but you can see the disproportionate numbers between gamers and non-gamers.
But most interesting to me is that despite the sheer size of the Doom and Bloom tribe, so few of those people have supported the campaign. Part of that might be Joe and Amy’s low-key approach to sharing the project with their followers–they haven’t said much about it, knowing that many of their fans want to hear about survival tips, not board game promotions. I can certainly appreciate their respectful approach to those fans.
The key, though, with both of these campaigns, is that just because you have a crowd doesn’t mean that particular crowd is interested in your Kickstarter project. Michael Stagliano’s fans follow him because they liked watching him on The Bachelorette–they’re probably interested in his love life and humor. Joe and Amy’s fans follow them because they want to know what to do to prepare for a tornado, not because they they want to play their board game.
Now, I don’t mean for this to sound helpless. You might be reading this and thinking, “If these people have tens of thousands of followers and they can only get a few hundred backers, how am I going to get backers on my project?” I get that, and I have some pointers for you to consider:
- Build Wisely. If you’re building a tribe, either build the right tribe for your project OR build the right project for your tribe. If you mix up the two, you might not see much of a result.
- Focus on Your Direct Audience. Time and money are limited resources when you’re promoting a Kickstarter campaign. Make strategic choices that focus on your direct audience, not your indirect audience. Then, if you have extra time, engage that indirect audience too.
- There Is Wisdom in the Building. Even though a large tribe doesn’t necessarily translate into Kickstarter success, you can still learn a number of skills by building a tribe that you can later translate into your Kickstarter personality and outreach methods. Michael Stagliano engages fans really well on Twitter, and Joe and Amy add value to people every day through their survival lessons.
- The Power of $1. If you have a massive tribe (or a tiny one), ask your fans to support your campaign at the $1 level. Even if it doesn’t add up financially, the more people involved the campaign, the greater the chances of success.
- What Is Kickstarter? One of the challenges of having a huge tribe is that a decent portion of them probably have no idea what Kickstarter is. Don’t assume that people know–make sure to explain it to them.
What are your thoughts? If you’re a Kickstarter creator, do you have any insights to share about how you built your tribe and how it translated (or didn’t translate) into Kickstarter success?